NASA’s JPL said preparations are underway to launch the next big thing to Mars in March 2016, Mars Lander InSight.
To be lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base, the MarCO spacecraft will carry the InSight landrover to Mars, along with two miniature satellites, of a briefcase size.
InSight will probe the Red Planet’s interior to study the mineral and crust formation for possible understanding of the possibility of future mining of the Mars for a manned mission, while NASA maintains that it is wholly for understanding Mars’ evolution.
The small briefcase spacecrafts will eventually separate from InSight, once in deep space. First, MarCO A will separate and then the rocket will take a 180 degrees turn to facilitate the other mini-satellite MarCO B to separate. Each of the spacecraft will then unfurl their solar wings, their high gain antenna, their UHF antenna in preparation for a 6½-month cruise to Mars.
When InSight gets to Mars orbit, it will be put through the landing schedule of Entry, Descent and Landing sequence as was done in the past with landrovers. The small MarCO spacecraft will record the landing of InSight on Mars. The MarCO spacecraft will soon begin relaying data back from the InSight lander to NASA’s Deep Space Network.
The two small briefcase-size spacecraft will be the first interplanetary cubesats as part oc the experiment to send similar small satellites for deep space exploration, and assisting and reducing risk to future landers and flybys on Mars, said NASA.